Girls on the Run pursue joy, health, confidence — and fun!

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Fifteen Perry Elementary School third, fourth and fifth grade girls joined some 900 others Nov. 10 at the Water Works Park in Des Moines for the Girls on the Run 5K run. Photo courtesy PACES

It was smiles, laughs and hot chocolate, too, when 15 Perry Elementary School third, fourth and fifth grade girls joined some 900 others Nov. 10 at the Water Works Park in Des Moines for the Girls on the Run 5K run.

Girls on the Run of Central Iowa is a program sponsored through the Walnut Creek YMCA and locally sponsored by the Perry PACES program. The mission of Girls on the Run is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident by using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.

The Perry girls met twice a week for 10 weeks, devoting each 75-minute session to training with volunteer coaches Megan Maylum, Lindsey Brelsford and Mary Hillman. The girls experienced a different lesson each week, covering topics such as understanding themselves, setting personal goals, leadership, team building, cooperation and their relationship to the community and service.

Following the lesson, the girls completed a warm-up that included a topic-related question of the day, a running workout that utilized a game or team goal, a cool down that included a review of the day’s lesson and a wrap up that closed with positive words from the coaches.

The Girls on the Run program also included a community service project. The Perry girls met with PACES students at Spring Valley Assisted Living in October to celebrate the fall harvest by greeting and visiting with residents, with the students receiving treats in return and a warm thank-you for their efforts.

At the 5K running event, each girl had a running buddy to provide encouragement and confidence to the girls entering their first 3.1 mile run. The Perry girls benefited from teacher volunteers, parents and even grandparents running and walking with the girls.

“The community and school support was amazing,” said Mary Hillman, PACES director, who coordinated the Perry program. “I have been wanting to get this program started for some time and now seeing the smiles, enthusiasm, the proud parents, great coaches, volunteer running buddies – it made all the work involved well worth it.”

The Girls on the Run program envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams, Hillman said.

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